Last week, the New Hartford Library Board of Trustees met in Butler Hall for the first meeting of 2014.
New board president, Jay Winn, started off the meeting with a discussion regarding the secret ballot vote for the election of vice president held at their December meeting.
At the December meeting, Trustee Wiatr brought forward the fact that according to the Open Meetings Law, each member’s vote must be publicly recorded; secret ballots are not allowed. That was not the first time that Trustee Wiatr objected to secret ballots; however, the previous board president was not open to listening to anything that Trustee Wiatr brought to the table.
But this time, to Mr. Winn’s credit, he actually took the time to speak to Robert Freeman of the Committee on Open Government regarding the vote and how the board could correct the record.
Mr. Freeman agreed with Trustee Wiatr…all votes must be made public to be in compliance with the Open Meetings Law. According to Mr. Freeman, the secret ballot vote taken at the December meeting could easily be corrected by asking each board member to state how they voted and then correcting the minutes of the meeting to reflect the vote of each member.
Simple enough, except that two board members still refused to say how they voted. One of the two agreed to write his vote on a piece of paper and sign the paper; however, Board President Winn let him know that his vote would still be a matter of public record in the minutes of the meeting. After further discussion, that board member blurted out how he voted.
However, the other member, John Klein, a board officer nonetheless, emphatically refused to say how he had voted. He didn’t care that the Open Meetings Law was being violated; he dug in his heels.
After much cajoling in an effort to convince Mr. Klein to just follow the law, the board president asked each of the remaining eight (8) trustees (Linda Romano is no longer on the board) to state for the record how they had voted. Knowing that the vote in December was six (6) for Ed Flemma and five (5) for Mary Du Ross as the next vice president, it quickly became quite apparent how Mr. Klein voted.
We just have to ask…what was his point? If everyone else makes their vote known, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how the last person voted. Is it really worth the embarrassment not only to Mr. Klein, but to the library as well? This is the kind of senseless b/s that has been going on with this board for the past several years.
We have to wonder if a trustee, particularly an officer, that openly and knowingly violates a law should be allowed to continue serving on the library board?
On a positive note, we have to commend Mr. Winn for his willingness to seek the advice of Mr. Freeman and his ability to keep the board on track. We are hopeful that this will be a turning point for the New Hartford Public Library; a step in the right direction.
One other thing, the new library director is definitely a welcome addition to our library and her experience will be invaluable in leading the library to success. If you get a chance, stop in and say hello to Elina Shneyder.
Here is the video of the January 15, 2014 New Hartford Public Library meeting: